Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

University maintenance crisis: Part 2

February 1, 2007


CLARIFICATION Feb. 5, 2005: We have a couple of clarifications we'd like to make tonight from the university maintenance story we brought you last week.

First... we reported the multicultural center at KU doesn't exist. In fact the building is still standing but it is in the process of being replaced by a building funded with mostly private dollars.

We also have new information about the list of projects still on the pared-down version of the university maintenance list.

We reported that three controversial projects were still on the list... that was the information we received from one of our sources for this story and as far as we know it was current as of last week.

But late on Friday we received a final copy of the new pared-down list of maintenance projects and found out those items have been deleted from the list.


We took a closer look at the universities' requests behind these numbers, and some of them may surprise you. Enlarge video

The University of Kansas' original deferred maintenance list included a $500,000 for the chancellor's residence, and more than $300,000 ($305,797) for the multi-cultural resource building - a building that doesn't even exist anymore.

Kansas State University wanted more than $ 3-million for repairs to the Ahearn Field House ($3,171,040) and $266,000 for the president's residence. ($266,727)

And Emporia State University listed more than a $100,000 for repairs to the president's home. ($109,712)

When the state balked at the cost of the requested repairs, the Kansas Board of Regents told the universities to tone it down.

"Really, what guided the Board was paring the list so it represents maintenance deficiencies on sort of more mission critical, mission central buildings," explained Reginald Robinson with the Kansas Board of Regents.

Regents told the universities to nix anything not directly related to education, and the universities managed to take 138 buildings off their request lists.

But even after the "paring down", schools are still left with a combined maintenance backlog of $663 million. And there are still hundreds of thousands of dollars in other surprising expenses.

Like at KU, where they noted a need for $ 720,000 for lawn care, and an additional $486,000 for trees and bushes.

Or at Emporia State University, where some of the items on the deferred maintenance list seem like they should come out of the the regular maintenance budget, for example, $250,000 for lawn care, $70,000 for trees and shrubs, $8,000 for trash receptacles.

"Many of those things would come out of the operating budget for maintenance," ESU President Michael Lane explained.

And they would if there was money in the operating budget, but, Lane says, there's not, even for routine items like those trash cans.

"When you're on a campus of this size, you don't get by with three trash cans. You need 3,000 trash cans and it takes it from being what you and I would think of as 'Oh, I need a trash can' to a capital expense," Lane explained.

But even if the current crisis gets solved, that doesn't stop it from happening again.

So we asked the universities how they planned to make sure the same problems wouldn't pop back up 10 or 20 years down the road.

"If you look at the plan the Regents have put forward, there are really two different plans," Lane explained.

Part one is to get the backlog taken care of, and part two would be to secure funding that would ensure universities don't get in this same position again.

"And that's currently estimated at $84 million," Lane said.

$84 million a year just to keep up with routine maintenance

Right now the six universities share a $15 million annual maintenance lump sum per year. Of that $15 million, K-State gets $4 million.

"Four million dollars doesn't cut it. Now you have to keep in mind, all of these buildings are owned by whom? The people of Kansas. They are not owned by KU and K-State. They are owned by the people of Kansas," Kansas State University president Jon Wefald told lawmakers during a committee presentation.

And that's why the universities, and Regents say the state should pay up and fix the crumbling classrooms, before the state digs itself even deeper into this campus crisis.


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